When one-third of the student body is playing on a sports team, and a number of teachers and staff are either coaching or taking tickets at the gate, then add in all the students who work at the games or are spectators, it’s obvious that high school sports are a big deal.
“Our athletic program continues to attract and retain 30 percent of the total student body population, which is equivalent to 186 out of 618 students participating in sports at the high school,” said Jose Palomo, athletic director for the Woodlake Unified School District. “The participation rates have continued to increase over the past three years, which have impacted our programs in a positive manner. And we continue to work with our feeder programs so that those students become familiar with the demands, rigors, and skill sets necessary to compete at the high school level.”
In his first season as head coach, Jeff Johnson faced a daunting task to get his team ready to compete against mostly bigger and more experienced teams. But that’s really nothing new in the storied Woodlake Tiger Football program.
“We had a very young team with 25 [out of 34 players] student athletes playing varsity football for the first time,” Coach Johnson reported. “We started seven sophomores and two freshmen. The future is bright for these kids and for Woodlake football.”
Coach Johnson’s youthful Tigers were competitive in every East Sequoia League (ESL) game except against Strathmore, he said. Strathmore is playing for a state championship (6AA) starting this weekend.
Coach Johnson said the final score was not indicative of how the Tigers played this season.
“We lost our last four ESL games in the final minutes,” Coach Johnson said. “Our players worked extremely hard. I am certain they will be a much stronger team next year.”
Coach Johnson said to build a winner, the players must think football beyond the season.
“If they stick to the process of earning good grades, getting stronger in the weight room, master their craft with their field work, and staying together as a team during the off season, they will taste success,” he said.
Weight training and field work for the 2018 season starts for players immediately after Winter Break — Tuesday, Jan. 9.”
“That’s how you develop a winning culture,” Coach Johnson concluded.
The team received the honor of All Section CIF Academic Team with an average GPA over 3.0. Here are the additional awards for Varsity Football 2018:
MVP: David Coa
Offensive Player of the Year: Henry Hagen
Coach’s Award: Victor Rojas, Saul Palomo, Chase Wallace, Marcos Cruz, Henry Hagen
First Team All-League: David Coa, defensive lineman; Marcos Cruz, offensive lineman
Second Team All-League: Victor Rojas, running back; Edward Munoz Avalos, linebacker
Woodlake High School’s Cross Country team had another successful season under the direction of third-year coach Blanca Lucatero. Coach Lucatero had former head coach Jesse Ramirez as her assistant.
The team consisted of 23 runners, which made up a Varsity Girls team, a Varsity Boys team, and a JV Boys team. The Tiger runners had nine first-year runners this season.
Coach Lucatero utilizes bicycles for the coaches to monitor the runners during the outdoor training sessions, and some teammates also brought their own bikes in order to help monitor their peers or to maintain fitness when recovering from injuries.
“Our only four-year runner this season was Team Captain Carlos Lucatero, who finally achieved his goal of running in the CIF Central Sectionals, held November 16th,” said Coach Lucatero. “Our Most Improved Runner is first-year athlete Dulce Ramirez, who ran her first 5K [3.1 miles] in September in 29:04.7 minutes. She finished her last 5K race in November in 23:12.4 minutes.”
The MVP is the team’s fastest runner: junior Jaime Navarro, whose best time for the season was a 17:25.8 minute 5K.
Paola Rios, junior and second-year runner, was the Lady Tigers MVP.
“Paola did a wonderful job of managing the girls’ team at every race and regularly kept track of our boys,” said Coach Lucatero. “Paola was like having our own Team Mom.”
“Each race is an opportunity to improve,” she continued. “The sport of Cross Country has an extremely positive culture of camaraderie and sportsmanship. We not only cheer our teammates on, we cheer on all competing athletes. It is normal for a runner to slow down and run alongside a competitor in order to encourage them to keep up the pace when they see them giving up. Paola Rios has done that.
“Emily Mull, a freshman, felt it was more important to stop and pick up a runner who tripped than to achieve a better time during a race. Our only freshman boy on the team, Andres Lemus, demonstrated exceptional sportsmanship when he stayed in the chute after crossing the finish line at the CIF Central Sectionals to keep many runners upright as many collapse due to giving it 110 percent at this qualifying race for the State Meet.
“Running long distance teaches the athletes that they are capable of more than they think they can accomplish. Runners may start out struggling to finish three miles at first, then when they are able to complete twice as many miles during a practice, they realize how strong their mind, body, and spirit truly are.”
The WHS Varsity Volleyball team, coached by Yvette Garcia, a second-year walk-on, recaptured a share of the East League Sequoia League (ESL) title and advanced to the Division 3 CIF quarter-finals, losing to eventual Section Champion Yosemite (Oakhurst).
The 2017 volleyball awards recipients are:
Callie Vincent (Three Rivers)— MVP, Second Team All-League, Captains Award, Best Offensive Player
Christina Sherwood (Three Rivers)— Second Team All-League, Captains Award
Lauren Little (Three Rivers)— Second Team All-League, Best Offensive Player
Pria Bun— Best Defensive Player
Reanna Muñoz— Best Defensive Player
Girls Tennis is coached by Mike Judson, a science teacher at Woodlake Valley Middle School. The players had another standout season, led by Katie Pfaff, a Three Rivers senior, No. 1 singles player, and the team’s perennial MVP since 2014.
WHS Girls Tennis finished second in league and advanced to the Division 3 CIF Semifinals, losing to eventual Section Champion Central Valley Christian High School (Visalia).
Message from Jose Palomo, athletic director:
Academically, our teams are competing exceptionally well with the rest of the Central Section schools as four out of five varsity teams had a team grade point average of 3.06 or higher this fall semester. Tigers are truly student-athletes!
To ensure that this academic success continues, Woodlake High School and Woodlake Valley School host tutorials to assist our student-athletes in meeting their academic requirements. Students who have a grade below of C in class are required to attend mandatory tutorials until that grade is above a C.
As part of their community service, one will find our athletes volunteering at the Woodlake Botanical Gardens on Saturdays assisting with the clean-up and beautification of Bravo Lake. One will also find our athletic teams assisting as coaches, referees, concession vendors, or maintenance crews with Woodlake Youth Football, Woodlake Youth Soccer, or Woodlake Wrestling Club. Our student-athletes have also assisted with H.O.W (Helping One Woman)during their dinners.
And our coaches and students have held basketball clinics at no charge and have traveled to Three Rivers to host free soccer clinics for both the youth league and Three Rivers Union School.
These selfless acts of kindness are rewarding to both the community and our athletic programs. It’s an exciting time to be a student-athlete in the Woodlake Unified School District.